Getting To Know Bristol - Weird BristolPosted on: 09 Mar 2017
As you might have guessed, we love Bristol in all its forms here at 365. Culture, sports, food & drink...and there's plenty of curiosities too. That's where Weird Bristol steps in and helps explain some of the more weird and wonderful aspects of our great city.
We caught up with Charlie Revelle-Smith, who runs Weird Bristol, to find out more about not only what he does but also about Bristol and its hidden treasures...
Hi Charlie, tell us a little about Weird Bristol and what exactly it is.
Weird Bristol is a Twitter feed which tweets pieces of Bristol history (and occasionally present) that may not be well known - little curiosities and interesting stories about people and places in bite sized chunks. It's meant mostly to entertain and inform but there's a wider goal for me in that I hope it gives people a better understanding of their city and its fascinating, if not always glorious history.
What about yourself: who are you and what do you do?
I'm Charlie Revelle-Smith, I'm an author and I'm the lone curator of the Weird Bristol feed. I'm from Cornwall but without a shadow of a doubt, Bristol is my home.
I'm currently in the final stages of publishing my ninth book - the third novel in a series entitled "The Bristol Murders" which is my attempt to create for our city what other fictional sleuths have done for theirs. Edinburgh has Rebus, Oxford has Morse, why can't Bristol have Franklin Gallow?
What lead you to delve deeper into Bristol?
I've always been fascinated by Bristol history but it was researching my second novel in "The Bristol Murders" series that it really took hold. The book is about a serial killer who's taking revenge on the people of the city for its supposed sins of the past. Once you start delving into the dark history of Bristol you find some unspeakable horrors, but also genuine stories of triumph and heroism that I'd like to be better known. Often we look at the worst excesses of greed and inhumanity and fear that may be all that the history of this city is, but there's good stuff out there too that's just as important to remember.
Give us your top 3 Bristol facts that people might not know.
1.) There's a tree in the Avon Gorge called the Houston's Whitebeam which is the only example of its species in the world. It's a natural crossbreed of two very rare species that are found in the gorge and is a very beautiful, if lonely tree that can't be accessed unless you're a very skilled rock climber.
2.) There's a book of trail notes in the M Shed museum of murderer John Horwood which are bound in his own skin. Following his execution in 1821 his skin was removed and treated as leather. The process is called anthropodermic bibliopegy and is exceptionally rare. The book can be seen as a permanent exhibit in the museum.
3.) Following the Bristol Blitz in 1941, enormous amounts of debris and rubble were shipped across the Atlantic to New York City where it was off-loaded onto the shore to extend the harbour. The area of the city was named "Bristol Basin" as tribute to the fact that the land that was being built on was literally the remains of people's homes. A plaque was erected in 1942, giving thanks to Bristol for their unlikely donation.
How can the people of Bristol and its visitors get involved?
I'd love to hear from people who think they might have a bit of weird Bristol to report. It's been pointed out that so far my feed has been quite heavy in reporting the history of the Centre, Bedminster and Clifton and it's definitely true because these are the areas that I know better than any other. Any suggestions from elsewhere will be very welcome, as are suggestions relating to Bristol sport as I know next to nothing about the sporting history of our city!
I have a lot of history to get through and it's still really early days so far but eventually I plan to cover every last corner of Bristol and find something weird in it!
What's the best 'myth' people believe to be true in Bristol?
I want to say the Bristol Crocodile, just because it's so delightful to imagine there might be a crocodile living in the Avon but I don't think anyone really believes in that!
I'll opt for a myth which is a very commonly held misconception about Bristol. A lot of people are convinced that Whiteladies Road and Blackboy Hill are named as yet another miserable reminder of our past, but neither have anything to do with slavery. In fact, at the time of the slave trade these roads were little more than dirt paths over farmland. It seems that they're both named after pubs, Blackboy Hill being named for the Black Boy Inn (which in turn was the nickname of Charles II) the Whiteladies pub (possibly so named for a ghost of a lady in white.) Lots of street names in Bristol have very dodgy origins but these two are not among them.
Are there any unsolved mysteries that the people of Bristol could look into?
Again, I want to say the Bristol Crocodile but I think a far greater real mystery is the "Hum." This low frequency sound can only be heard by some people (mostly aged 45+) but it can be recorded so we know it's really there. It seems to come and go almost randomly and nobody has a definitive explanation for what it is.
It has been blamed for at least one suicide in the city and countless sleepless nights for those tortured by the sound, and explanations have suggested anything from tides, to the underground maze of tunnels beneath Bristol, to aliens but it remains a mystery.
If you were Mayor of Bristol for a day, what one thing would you change?
This is a simple, and a purely selfish one which would render me the hated one-day mayor in the history of one-day mayors but as an eternal pedestrian who does all of his Weird Bristol investigating on foot, I'd ban all vehicles from the entirety of the city. Yes it would cause possibly irreparable damage to Bristol and the whole exercise would be one of staggering shortsightedness and arrogance but just think of how beautiful our Bristol icons would look without traffic, even if it was just for one day.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Swansea, Jimmy moved to Bristol back in 2004 to attend university. Passionate about live music, sport, science and nature, he can usually be found walking his cocker spaniel Baxter at any number of green spots around the city. Call James on 078 9999 3534 or email Editor@365Bristol.com.